Finding the Calm Beyond

8/2/17
WRITTEN BY: Alex Cox
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It started as a joke. I had always had a sweet tooth, and nothing changed when I was pregnant. Every time I opened a pack of Skittles, dove into a pint of ice cream (the entire pint, of course), or ate half a watermelon, I chalked it up to just my pregnancy cravings.

In June of 2015, I went to my 24-week OB appointment. I was feeling great. I hadn’t gained much weight, and I was beginning to really show. We’d recently found out we were having a boy, and I was on top of the world. The nurse mentioned in passing that I was spilling a little sugar in my urine, but when I told her that I had stuffed my face, yet again, with half a watermelon earlier that day, she chalked it up to that. Besides, my glucose test would be in a few weeks.

25 weeks. I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding. I’d begun to feel a bit larger, and I’d started to see the fruits of my labor: swollen feet and nose. At the reception, I ate five plates of sweets, scarfed down more watermelon, and drank all the punch I could. My friends and family started noticing how many times I entered the food line. Looking back, I remember thinking, Man, something’s really wrong here. Why can’t my thirst be satisfied? And why am I craving these sweets.

26 weeks. My family and I took a vacation to the beach. My cravings didn’t stop, and I drank gallons of water that week. My mom was concerned; I kept telling her I was fine, and the baby was moving around like always. When I got home, the symptoms of gestational diabetes began rearing its ugly head. I woke six to seven times a night to pee. I drank half a gallon of milk in the night. My eyesight became blurry.

27 weeks. One week before my glucose test. On my way to an eye doctor appointment for my blurry vision, I got lost in the town in which I was born and raised. I knew my cousin, who has had Type 1 diabetes for several years, was eating at a local restaurant. I pulled in and she immediately knew something was wrong. My speech was slurred, and I was insatiably thirsty. She checked my blood sugar on her meter. To her astonishment, it was too high to even read.

My husband drove me to the ER for what would be the scariest moments of my life. I have no recollection of the following hours. My blood sugar was 604. I was on the verge of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), and my son was not moving. The diagnosis: Type 1 diabetes. I was in complete denial. How could this happen to me? I understood gestational diabetes. But Type 1? My A1C was well into the double digits. The internist explained that it appeared I had been diabetic for quite some time. My active lifestyle had possibly masked the symptoms.

I was in the critical care unit for at least a week. I lost five pounds in two days. I began giving myself insulin injections with the intention of being able to go home and do this myself. I began seeing a high-risk doctor, and my pregnancy progressed easily. I didn’t battle too many highs, but I had my fair share of lows, including sliding down the refrigerator while my husband shoved sugar in my mouth.

My son was born two weeks early by a scheduled Caesarian section. He was healthy, and becoming a mother was more than I could have ever imagined. The second I held him (three hours later — what they didn’t tell me was that T1D moms often don’t get to hold and snuggle their babies right away because of blood sugar issues with the baby) everything I’d been through in the last three months stopped mattering.

I had about a year of diabetic bliss, believing I finally had control over my BODY. But my autoimmune disorder didn’t stop there. I come from a long line of family members who have autoimmune diseases — Type 3 Angioedema, vitiligo, Type 1 diabetes, Celiac — and in January of 2017, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder.

July 13, 2017. In the middle of typing this story for Beyond Type 1, I noticed a sudden and quick swelling of my thyroid. After calling my doctor, I headed to the ER. The prognosis was viral thyroiditis, something I will most likely battle my entire life along with Hashimoto’s.

My son will be 2 years old in September. I have a wonderful team of people to support and help me through this battle. My endocrinologist and nurse practitioner are incomparable. I am able to share data with her daily (insert shameless plug for Dexcom Clarity).

My identity is not a Type 1 diabetic. It’s beyond that. I’m a mother and wife. I’m a teacher. I’m a mentor. I’m a reader and a gardener. This struggle has not been easy. I’ve had wonderful days of perfect blood sugars. I’ve had days where I was either 295 or 45. I’ve had days, like today, where I curl up on the couch and cry until I can’t breathe, but only for a minute. I’ve got a purpose. I know there’s hope – after switching from shots to the OmniPod and Dexcom CGM, my A1C has been a steady 6.1. I follow blogs daily that encourage me to be my best self despite having chronic illnesses. Sometimes I wonder what other autoimmune diseases may come my way, but I look for peace knowing I will manage them, that I will press on. As I continue this journey of being the best me I can be, I hope to inspire and be inspired. I hope to find calm beyond this disease.



Alex Cox

Alex Cox lives in Paris, Tenn., with her husband, Wesley, and their toddler son, Ellet. She is a 9th grade English and Creative Writing teacher. Her journey with Type 1 began in July 2015. Her hope is to inspire and be inspired by others with chronic illnesses.